Mod's Coffee & Crepes coffee sleeve

This coming Saturday, December 16, 2017, Mod's Coffee and Crepes will close its doors after seven years in business.

SX043668-Mods_Philcade_Lobby.JPGYesterday was the last chance to enjoy one of the things we love about Mod's -- gluten-free crepes available on Tuesdays. A week ago Tuesday we gathered there to celebrate one child's victory in a speech contest (she won first place in the local competition and will go on to district) and the other's successful cello jury. We had our favorite crepes (the kids like the club, I'm partial to the smoked salmon, cream cheese, and dill crepe) and enjoyed them under the Art Deco splendor of the Philcade lobby. After dinner we went back to the counter to get some gelato, which we enjoyed as we perused the Tulsa Art Deco Museum exhibits of stylized clothing, building ornamentation, and household appliances in the arcade's display windows. We came back again this Tuesday, had dinner and gelato again, and ordered a pan of the stuff (mixed berry, 5.5L for $45) to pick up later in the week.

Mod's was a favorite place to go after downtown music lessons or after a concert at the PC. Sometimes I'd hang out there during lessons to drink coffee and use the wifi. I appreciate the choice of coffees (roasted by Nordaggio's) which almost always included an exotic, flavorful single-origin from Ethiopia, Tanzania, or Sumatra, plus their "Nox Atra" (Latin for "really, really dark night") dark roast blend. Some Thursday evenings after music, I'd take my youngest son to Mod's, we'd sit in the back alcove (near the outlets, and a bit quieter than the Philcade lobby), eat crepes, critique his essay for that week, and then top it off with gelato, taking some home for the rest of the family.

There are some awkward aspects to the space. In the evenings the arcade entrances are closed, and you can only get in through the cafe itself. Restrooms are in the old Amoco building next door, down a long corridor and past a security guard. Parking can be an issue too, especially as downtown improvements have eliminated some nearby street-side spaces. I don't mind walking around the block for a treat, as we did tonight, but I suppose others might be put off.

From the building directory, it appears that IBM is the sole occupant of the Philcade above the first floor. If the building is full of employees who show up at 8, leave at 5, and sit in front of a computer all day (my speculation), it wouldn't generate much foot traffic for the retailers on the first floor.

Contrast that with the 1932 building directory in a historical display about the Philcade in the corridor off the main lobby -- dozens of small oil-industry companies, railroad offices, and professional offices, which would have employees, clients, customers, business associates, and couriers coming and going throughout the day. In the Philcade shopping arcade, you could buy a ticket on the Frisco railroad, fill a prescription, buy cigars, send a Western Union telegram, get a haircut and a shoe shine.

In 1957, the first floor of the Pan American Building (as it was then known, after the Pan Am Petroleum Corp. that occupied its top two floors) was home to Bob Evans Drugs, Nan Pendelton Shop (women's clothes), American Airlines, Continental Airlines, the Pan Am Cigar Stand, Daniel, Daniel, Ennis & Co accountants, Pan Am Barber Shop, Margo's Gift Shop, Donovan & Warren optometrists, Johnson's Travel Service, DeShane's Tailors, and Braniff International Airways. The upper floors housed Tuloma Gas Products, Diamond Drilling, Indiana Oil Purchasing Co, Oklahoma Log Exchange (oil well log libraries), Fred Phillips Oil Co, geologist Howard Clark, oil operator William D. Phillips, Frisbie Drilling, Noble Drilling, Goff Leeper Drilling, Falcon Seaboard Drilling, Union Wire Rope, Kobe Inc (oil field equipment), Dr. Wilkie Hoover, dentist Paul H. Ramsey, lawyers Steven Smith and Stanley D. Campbell, Williams & Morgan Insurance, consultant Ralph Dieter, and the Red Crown Credit Union. The three-story building just to the south, now attached to the Philcade with no street entrance, had the Tulsa Book Shop, the Tulsa Record Shop, Carson Attractions (for many years, the source for tickets for Tulsa events), and the Catholic Information Center.

I suspect that as the Deco District (which Mod's helped establish) has become more popular, rent has increased. Food prices have risen sharply over the last seven years. Looking back over Mod's Facebook timeline, I notice that they put their food truck up for sale in October of this year and announced the decision to focus on the Philcade store.

SX043684.JPG

Seven years is a very good run for a small eatery. It suggests that the idea was a solid concept and that the restaurant was well managed. In 2010, owner Rusty Rowe won two Tulsey awards -- entrepreneur of the year and restaurateur of the year.

Surely some smart restaurateur could save this unique dining experience, even if it means we customers have to pay a little more. The farewell note indicates that the owners are open to inquiries about "keeping the concept alive."

Mod's will be open until 10 pm the remainder of this week. Stop by and enjoy it while you can. All the best to Rusty, Colleen, and family and the Mod's team in their future endeavors.

UPDATE Thursday, December 7, 2017: Filing is closed, and here is the final 2018 school board candidate list from the Tulsa County Election Board. Only three of 17 seats will be contested. Shawna Keller, the incumbent from District 4 in the eastern part of the Tulsa school district, has drawn two opponents: Kyle R. Wagner and Raymon Simpson. Suzanne Schreiber, the other Tulsa incumbent, drew no opposition. Contested elections will occur in Broken Arrow (Theresa Williamson vs. John Cockrell) and Collinsville (Jennifer McElroy vs. Brady Stephens). No one filed for the Bixby seat, which will be filled by appointment by the other school board members -- a missed opportunity to bring some accountability to bear in that district.

Seat 4 in most districts will be up for election in 2019 (with filing a year from now in December 2018). In Tulsa, only the District 1 seat will be on the ballot; District 1 is currently held by Gary Percefull, and covers the portion of the district west of the Arkansas River, downtown Tulsa, Owen Park, Irving/Crosbie Heights, Brady Heights, neighborhoods along the Sand Springs Line, southern part of Gilcrease Hills, and, southeast of downtown, the Riverview, North Maple Ridge, Swan Lake, Tracy Park, Forest Orchard, Village at Central Park, and Pearl District (south of 6th Street) neighborhoods.

A year is a long way off, but now is the time to start thinking and planning to run. I can think of many young parents who have decided to homestead in the traditional neighborhoods around downtown who would bring new perspectives and energy to the Tulsa school board.


This is a reworking of a post from two years ago, but it has been updated with current information about open seats and candidates, and there is some new information below.

Edina-Cover-A_is_for_Activist.jpgWe are in the midst of the annual filing period for public school board positions in Oklahoma, which ends Wednesday, December 6, 2017, at 5 p.m. Most school districts will have a single seat, Position No. 3, up for election to a five-year term. Glenpool also has seat 5 on the ballot to fill an unexpired term. After the first day of filing, many seats have yet to draw a candidate, and no district has more than one candidate.

(Here is the current list of candidates for Tulsa County school board seats. And here's where you'll find maps showing school district and election district boundaries.)

School board filing always comes at a busy and distracted time of year. As I've written before, it's almost as if school board elections were deliberately scheduled to escape the notice of potential candidates and voters.

If you're a conservative, you should give serious consideration to running.

The election will be held on February 13, 2018, with runoffs on April 3, 2018, for those seats where no candidate won a majority of the vote in the February election.

The Tulsa district, largest in the state, has two out of seven seats up for election to a four-year term, Posts No. 4 and 7.

Tulsa Election District 4 is east Tulsa, covering the district roughly east of a line midway between Memorial and Mingo. The current member for District 4 and board vice president, Shawna Keller, is a member of the left-wing Oklahoma Education Association (and, by requirement,
a member of the left-wing National Education Association) according to her bio on the school board website, which describes her as a teacher at Owasso Ram Academy. Shawna Keller is a registered Democrat. (That link goes to information from December 2016, but I was able to confirm current status through the Oklahoma State Election Board's online voter tool.) So far Keller is the only candidate to file in the district

Tulsa Election District 7 covers, roughly, the portion of the district south of 51st St., plus the neighborhoods around Patrick Henry Schools and Promenade Mall. The incumbent is board president Suzanne Schreiber, who was first elected to the seat in 1996. Suzanne Schreiber is also a registered Democrat. So far she is the only candidate to file for the seat.

Looking through the online biographies, I think it's fair to assume that there is not a single conservative on the Tulsa School Board. Six are registered Democrats; one (Amy Shelton in District 2) is registered as an independent.

In addition, Tulsa Technology Center board seat 2 is up for a seven-year term, representing eastern sections of the district roughly bounded by 66th Street North, 31st Street South, and east of Yale Avenue within Tulsa County, plus the part of Rogers County and Wagoner County north of 41st Street within the TTC boundaries. TTC seems to have more money than it knows what to do with; it would be lovely to have a fiscal conservative on the board who could curb their building spree. Incumbent Rick Kibbe, a registered Republican, is the only candidate thus far.

If you're a conservative, you should give serious thought to running, even if you have no school-aged children, even if you have children that are homeschooled or in private school, even if you've never had a child in the public schools. The public school system exists to serve all citizens by educating the children of the community, so every citizen has an interest in the curriculum being used, the way discipline is handled, the condition of the school buildings, and the credentials, skills, and philosophical presuppositions of the teachers, principals, and administrators. Property owners support the school system through ad valorem taxes, and so they have a reasonable interest in the proper and efficient expenditure of those funds. So do all citizens who pay state income and sales taxes, which provide funds to supplement local property taxes.

If you are, like me, a homeschool or private school parent, you will have experience and valuable insights with successful, classical alternatives to the faddish and failing teaching methods, priorities, and content currently in use in the public schools.

I ran some numbers, comparing 2010 census data, broken down by age, with the closest school attendance data I could find, from the 2010-2011 school year. In the Tulsa school district, the average daily attendance was only 67.2% of the number of school-aged children (5-18) who lived in the district on Census Day 2010. That means about a third of school-aged kids were either homeschooled or in private schools, the highest proportion of any district in the metro area. The Tulsa district also had the lowest percentage of residents in the 5-18 bracket -- 17.9%. Compare that to the Sperry district, where 91% of school-aged residents attended the public school, and where 22.6% of the residents were school-aged.

It seems that a substantial number of families move from the Tulsa district to the suburbs when their children reach kindergarten, or, if they stay, many opt for homeschooling or private schools. Those numbers make a strong case for new leaders in the Tulsa district. And if the school board is going to be strictly representative, at least two of the seven members should have children in homeschool or private school, and a majority should be conservative.

Filing is simple: A notarized declaration of candidacy, and a signed copy of the statutory requirements for school board candidates. For this office there is no filing fee. You can view the Oklahoma school board filing packet online. And although school board elections are officially non-partisan, the local and state Republican Party organizations will provide assistance to registered Republicans who are candidates for non-partisan office. (I suspect the same is true of the Democrats.)

There was a time when it was generally agreed that schools existed to transmit knowledge and the values of the community to the rising generation, working alongside parents. At some point, as part of the Gramscian long march through the institutions, the public schools were infiltrated by Leftists who saw them as a venue for missionary work, converting children away from the values of their parents, away from the ideals that made America a prosperous and peaceful nation. The Left has influence over schools of education, textbook publishers, teachers' unions, and continuing education for teachers, administrators, and board members.

If you live in a suburban or small-town district, you might suppose your district is safe from Leftist influence. Think again. Through their college training, their teachers' union newsletter, continuing education courses, peer relationships, and curriculum, your districts' teachers and administrators work in an atmosphere of Leftist presuppositions about the world. It takes strength, conviction, and vigilance for a conservative educator to be conscious of that atmosphere and to resist its influence.

Earlier this fall, Mandy Callihan, a teacher and parent in Jay, Oklahoma, was infuriated to learn that her 12-year-old daughter was being taught in school about mutual masturbation and anal and oral sex, complete with a worksheet she had to fill out. She and other parents went to the school looking for answers and discovered that the curriculum had been approved by the school board and the middle school principal. The superintendent, claiming ignorance, halted the program, but parents were told it would have to be brought back the following year.

In Minnesota, the Center for the American Experiment has just published a detailed 10-page report on slipping standards at the once-successful Edina school district in the suburbs of the Twin Cities. While academic achievement has declined, Leftist indoctrination is on the rise:

Today, for example, K-2 students at Edina Highlands Elementary School are learning--through the "Melanin Project"--to focus on skin color and to think of white skin as cause for guilt. "Equity" is listed as a primary criterion on the district's evaluation for K-5 math curricula. At Edina High School, teachers are haranguing students on "White Privilege," and drilling into them that white males oppress and endanger women. In a U.S. Literature and Composition class, 11th-graders are being taught to "apply marxist [sic], feminist" and "post-colonial" "lenses to literature."

In short, in Edina, reading, writing, math and critical thinking skills are taking a backseat to an ideological crusade.

The Leftist bent of the school district came to public attention after the overwrought reaction by students and teachers to the election results, but the roots of the problem went back several years, to the school's decision to try to close the achievement gap between students of different races by focusing on structural racism as the cause:

The All for All plan's fundamental premise is that white racism--not socio-economic factors like family breakdown--is the primary cause of the achievement gap. If minority students' academic performance is to improve, "systems that perpetuate inequities" must be "interrupt[ed]" and "barriers rooted in racial constructs and cultural misunderstandings" must be "eliminate[d]," according to the district's position statement on "Racial Equity and Cultural Competence in Edina Public Schools."

The story mentions one race-conscious elementary school principal who adopted a curriculum provided by the slanderous Leftist group that calls itself the Southern Poverty Law Center. The same principal eliminated flex groups -- opportunities during one period for children of similar ability levels to work together with a teacher, receiving targeted instruction -- because they were perceived as insufficiently diverse. A high school literature class describes a course goal in this way: "By the end of the year, you will have...learned how to apply marxist [sic], feminist, post-colonial [and] psychoanalytic...lenses to literature."

There are, it must be said, many good conservatives, many devout Christians serving in Oklahoma's public schools. But they need support in the form of school board members who will set policy and curriculum and ensure that the paid staff adhere to it. Conservative school board members should not give undue deference to "professionals" who have been trained to see education through a Leftist lens. The subject matter taught, the methods used, and the values undergirding it all should be firmly under the control of our elected representatives on the school board.

Education is necessarily ideological, because it rests on presuppositions about knowledge, truth, goodness, and beauty. The ideology of the public schools should reflect the ideology of the community.

If I were running -- and our district isn't up for election this year -- here are some of the planks that would be in my platform:

  • Introduce the classical trivium as the philosophy and method of instruction in schools that are currently failing. That includes a heavy emphasis on memorizing facts in the elementary years, which gives children a sense of mastery and accomplishment and provides a solid foundation for subsequent learning.
  • Instill pride in our city, state, and country. America has its flaws, but it is a beacon of liberty and opportunity that inspires hope in hundreds of millions of people around the world who wish they could live and work here. Our children should understand the aspects of our culture and history that have made our country prosperous and peaceful.
  • Keep the Land Run re-enactments in our elementary schools. It's a fun and memorable way to introduce students to our state's unique history. There is an activist in Oklahoma City who managed to convince historically ignorant principals and school board members there that the '89 Land Run was an act of genocide. Oklahoma City, founded by the '89 Land Run, no longer has reenactments of that event, because of a zealot who pushed her slanderous revision of history on ignoramuses in charge of the schools.
  • Return music to the elementary grades. An early introduction to classical music and learning to make music by singing have tremendous developmental and behavioral benefits.
  • Review all federal grants and determine whether the cost of compliance and the loss of independence is worth the money.
  • Young people who foolishly believe that swapping sexes will solve their deep unhappiness deserve pity and guidance. It is utter cruelty to humor their misplaced hope that "changing gender identity" will cure their misery. Leadership at each school should craft a way to accommodate these deluded young people with compassion and dignity, while protecting the dignity of everyone else, and while affirming the biologically undeniable reality of the two sexes.

On that last point, doing the wise thing will require resisting Federal pressure. If the U. S. Department of Education refuses funding based on its perverted interpretation of Title IX, the school should sue the DoE.

Our public schools need principled, intelligent conservative leadership. Will you step forward to serve?

RELATED (from 2015):

Stella Morabito writes, "Ask Not Who's Running For President, Ask Who's Running For School Board," and she cites the recent battle in Fairfax County, Virginia, over transgender policy as one among many reasons:

The board voted 10-1 with one abstention to shove the policy down the throats of startled parents. There was no discussion and no consideration given to the concerns expressed. Instead, the parents were in effect smeared as intolerant bigots.

The ten board members voting in compliance with this federal harassment behaved like a bunch of cronies who seemed most interested in securing their places of privilege in a coming nomenklatura by regurgitating Orwellian-style talking points about "equality" and "non-discrimination."...

When informed citizens of goodwill vote en masse locally, they can provide an effective check on corruption and force government to be more responsive to its citizens. This kind of citizen activism serves as a buffer that can prevent state and federal governments from absorbing local governments.

As we've seen from the Fairfax County case, our distraction from local elections and neglect of local politics is fertile ground for growing laws under the radar on issues that have not been debated or thought through.

More than ever, we need to push back against the use of local elections as a back door to enforcing agendas established by central, national, or even international agendas.

Walt Heyer, a man who underwent sex-change surgery and then, realizing that the change failed to give him the happiness he had hoped for, changed back, writes that the Obama Administration is using its perverted interpretation of Title IX to force public schools to trample their students in the transgender war against science and reason.

Let's look back and unmask the founders who started the gender madness we see infiltrating into our public schools today. As I detail in "Paper Genders," changing boys into girls started in the perverted minds of three abhorrent pedophile activists from the 1950s who were at the forefront of promoting a movement for sexual and gender experimentation... [Alfred Kinsey, Harry Benjamin, and John Money]....

Public schools are becoming centers for gay, lesbian, and gender-pretender activists and only secondarily fulfilling their purpose as institutions for sound academics. The laws are being interpreted far beyond the original intent of non-discrimination based on gender to where they protect gender pretenders at the expense of the rights of non-trans kids. Gender pretenders are assured access to every school facility and program available to the opposite gender, up to and including girls-only dressing rooms and showers.

Every child's rights to privacy and protection from exposure to inappropriate opposite-sex nudity are now in jeopardy. According to these new legal interpretations, if you like your gender and want to keep your gender that's fine, but you cannot keep your freedom, rights, or protections in public-school dressing rooms or restrooms. The current conflict of interest playing out in school locker rooms between girls born as girls and the self-acknowledged gender pretender trans-kids is real and it is not funny. Non-trans students have lost their right to privacy and parents have lost the freedom to parent and protect their children....

Studies show that people with gender issues also have other psychological issues 62.7 percent of the time. When the co-existing illness is treated, often the desire to change gender dissipates. By not treating the co-existing illnesses first and instead putting the patient through gender reassignment--hormones and surgery--the medical community does irrevocable harm to the patient's body and long-lasting harm to his mind.

The harm is deeper for impressionable children and adolescents who experiment with gender-change behaviors and hormones or hormone blockers. Studies have shown that the majority of kids who are gender confused will grow out of it if they are left alone....

Gender pretenders--also known as trans-kids, crossdressers, or transvestites--should get counseling, not encouragement. Social terrorists who use child transvestites to advance an agenda of sexual perversion should be shut down, not be guiding public school policy.

It's time for parents and kids to fight against the social terrorism of gender change. It's time to take schools back from males who wish to expose themselves with impunity in the girls' locker room.

On Friday, the Oklahoma Legislature approved a budget compromise that funded essential services, cut spending in other areas, and avoided raising taxes entirely. Later the same day, Gov. Mary Fallin used her line-item veto to remove all of the bill except for funding for the three agencies that would have been funded by the cigarette tax increase that was approved during regular session and struck down by the State Supreme Court because it lacked the constitutionally required vote of the people.

Legislative leaders were puzzled by Fallin's veto.

When asked what the Oklahoma Legislature might do after Gov. Mary Fallin line-item vetoed the product of its eight-week special session, House Floor Leader Jon Echols struggled to give an answer.

"I don't think anybody really understands what the intent of this is," said Echols, R-Oklahoma City. "There's a lot of unanswered questions here."

It appears that her veto leaves the state short $110 million this year instead of $215 million, which mostly affected three agencies that have a critical health care mission. She signed enough of the bill to send some money to the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services, the Oklahoma Health Care Authority and the Department of Human Services.

Fallin said she wants to call the Legislature back into special session to address the shortfall without spending what is considered one-time funding. She didn't say, however, when that might happen.

"Bringing the Legislature back into special session at this point seems like a waste of time and taxpayer dollars," Senate President Pro Tem Mike Schulz said. "The governor's veto doesn't help Oklahoma thrive; it only serves to throw our budget further into chaos."

(This was not the first time Fallin has vetoed bills unexpectedly, seemingly on a whim.)

State Rep. Josh Cockroft says Fallin's veto broke a promise and may have broken the State Constitution:

I am not happy about the veto especially since the Governor had agreed to the plan if it passed both the House and the Senate. Her actions are a complete reversal of her promise. This is unacceptable, and she should and will be held accountable.

The Governor's decision gives no stability in a state that desperately needs it.

Questions of the constitutionality of the Governor's decision have been raised since it now leaves our budget unbalanced. These concerns must be explored. The fact of the matter is that right now, the legislature has no idea what exactly she did last night or where any funding is. She only released a statement and no documentation to show exactly what was being done. This is highly concerning for us as legislators and should be for the entire State as well.

Oklahoma's budget crisis reflects eight years of no leadership from Gov. Fallin or legislative leaders. Rather than decisively acting to audit the performance of state departments and consolidate services, rather than enduring the attacks from aggrieved interests that decisive action would have incited, Fallin and a succession of House and Senate Republican leaders kicked the can down the road. The minority of courageous fiscal conservatives in the legislature did not have the clout to push for reform, but, thanks to SQ 640 their numbers were sufficient to block the tax hike, forcing state leaders at last to reckon with the kind of waste and duplication now being exposed at the State Health Department.

Had a tax increase been enacted, it merely would have sent a higher baseline for overspending, temporarily relieving the pressure of financial constraint.

As I wrote this summer:

Oklahoma's current dilemma proves that, whether union-label Democrats or crony-capitalist Republicans run the government, public choice theory holds true: In politics, concentrated benefit trumps diffuse cost. Barring a grassroots miracle, a state's governor and legislative leaders will be those politicians most easily swayed by the special interests who come to the State Capitol bearing gifts in exchange for government-given financial advantage, be they public-employee unions looking for a raise, superintendents of tiny school districts hoping to dodge consolidation, or oil barons and wind tycoons looking for targeted tax credits. Pliable legislators get contributions for themselves and their PACs, with which they win the loyalty of their colleagues in the caucus room.

With this sort of leadership, if it can be called leadership, state spending will rise to match rising revenues, because the Ado Annies on Capitol Hill just cain't say no. Concentrated benefit trumps diffuse cost. The profligate spending only makes the cuts all the more painful when revenues fall, as they always do. Oklahoma would be in much deeper trouble were it not for the constitutionally mandated "rainy-day fund" that sequesters some of the financial windfall in good years.

Oklahoma needs a new governor and new legislative leaders willing to eliminate the revenue earmarks that keep taxpayer dollars from flowing where they're most needed, to eliminate duplication in our colleges and career technology centers, to eliminate tax credits that do nothing for economic growth, to eliminate administrative bloat and the regulations that create it. Every one of those necessary steps will threaten some group's concentrated benefit. Persisting with necessary reform in the face of the resulting resistance will require principled courage, a quality scarce amongst the crony-capitalists currently running the state or the big-government tax-hikers who want to replace them.

Mary Fallin's non-leadership is what happens when voters choose image over substance. Her unwillingness to lead has been evident throughout her term and even before her first election to the governor's office:


Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs president Jonathan Small praised the Legislature for reaching a budget compromise that balanced the budget without raising taxes:

The Legislature did the right thing by utilizing surplus funds and other available resources rather than raising taxes on working Oklahoma families and small businesses. After the loss of $215 million in expected cigarette tax money, policymakers only needed to address revenue failures for three core agencies during this special session.

This special session was a reminder that, even with total state spending at an all-time high, government will always ask for more money. Leading up to and during the special session, well-paid state government agency heads resorted to threatening many of Oklahoma's most vulnerable citizens.

Meanwhile, subsidies remained in place for out-of-state wind companies, Hollywood filmmakers, and other non-essential programs. There's also plenty of misguided, non-critical spending in agencies like TSET. And, given the recent troubles surrounding one of Oklahoma's largest and most powerful regulatory agencies, it is incumbent upon lawmakers to pump the brakes on any more tax increases until performance audits and true reforms can be completed.

Oklahoma families have to live within their means and make tough choices, as do state policymakers. Using so-called one-time funds in state government is not ideal, but it's better than raising taxes on working Oklahomans.

Americans for Prosperity-Oklahoma reacted to the veto:

Oklahoma City, OK - Americans for Prosperity-Oklahoma (AFP-OK) is disappointed in the surprise vetoes issued by Governor Mary Fallin on Friday. Her vetoes will bring the legislature back in to what has already been a costly special session. AFP-OK is a strong advocate of good stewardship of taxpayer dollars and hopes lawmakers push to resolve the threat of a continued budget crisis quickly and without raising taxes on hard working Oklahoma families and businesses.

Over the past several months, a steadfast group of legislators have repeatedly rejected the Governor's desire to raise taxes on lower and middle-class families and AFP-OK continues to applaud that effort.

AFP-OK state director, John Tidwell released the following statement:

"I think Will Rogers was right when he said, 'when you find yourself in a hole - quit digging.' This largest tax increase in state history only digs that hole deeper. Governor Fallin's decision to veto large parts of a balanced budget deal and intention to drag out a special session is a raw deal for taxpayers. The governor should have signed the budget deal and accepted the tough budget cuts which would have balanced the budget."

"Her insistence on raising taxes on Oklahoma families is just wrong," Tidwell continued. "What's worse, the Governor seems totally obstinate to truly cutting wasteful spending or reforms of any kind. Oklahomans should support those lawmakers who worked in a bi-partisan way to balance the budget and ask them to continue to stand strong against costly tax increases that will hurt families and small businesses."

MORE: Earlier this month, State Rep. Jason Murphey of Guthrie explained why you should never believe that state government needs more of your money:

Those in the arena of public policy are constantly subjected to the unending refrain of, "Give us more money or all types of armageddon-type scenarios will inevitably occur."

Too often, the weak-minded policy maker acquiesces and accepts the overstated demands at face value.

Worse, many times he doesn't just acquiesce, but actually becomes a co-opted agent for the very bureaucracy to which he was commissioned by the people of Oklahoma to be the check and balance.

Those policy makers who take their responsibility seriously and don't accept the claims of the bureaucrats at face value know that many millions of dollars are wasted by government every year.

It seems that significant waste is found almost every time a truly independent authority investigates the actual spending practices of these agencies.

Over the years, I have seen report after report and audit after audit expose this waste and point to potential spendings.

Unfortunately, state government is so large and spending is so great that legislative purview (already quite minimalistic) has only reached a small subset of overall spend.

Even with those reports and audits pointing to the waste, modernization efforts frequently run up against the political power of bureaucrats who have worked the system to the point that they can use taxpayer dollars to finance an army of lobbyists who are extremely effective at protecting those bureaucracies from reforms.

STILL MORE: The failure of the tax hike seems to be giving new impetus to efforts to address waste:

Following revelations of apparent financial mismanagement at the Oklahoma Department of Health, House of Representatives Speaker Charles McCall today said he is empaneling a House Special Investigation Committee to begin conducting an investigation into the agency's use of taxpayer dollars.

The committee will focus its investigation into the finances, state appropriations and other financial resources of the Department of Health and how they were managed. The scope of the committee's investigation could expand to other agencies.

"The allegations at the Department of Health are very concerning, and I share the public's frustration with the mismanagement of at least $30 million in taxpayer funds," said Speaker McCall, R-Atoka. "The Legislature has the authority to conduct an investigation, and our members want that to begin as soon as possible. This is a very serious matter, and I would encourage those associated with these allegations to cooperate fully with our investigation."

Published November 9, 2017. Postdated to keep this at the top of the blog until the polls close. If you appreciate the hours of effort behind detailed analysis you can't find anywhere else, Hit the tip jar!

Polling_Place_Vote_Here.jpg

The City of Tulsa is holding a special election this Tuesday, November 14, 2017. The ballot will consist of seven proposed amendments to the City Charter which were approved by the City Council over the course of the summer.

Polls are open 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Early in-person absentee voting for residents of the Tulsa County will be available at the Tulsa County Election Board, 555 N. Denver Ave., just north of downtown Tulsa, from 8 am. to 6 p.m. Thursday, November 9, and Friday, November 10, plus from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday, November 11. The Tulsa County Election Board has published an information sheet on the November 14, 2017, election.

In addition to the Tulsa special election, voters in House District 76 (northern part of Broken Arrow) have a special general election between Republican Ross Ford and Democrat Chris Van Landingham to fill the vacancy left by the death of State Rep. David Brumbaugh, and voters in Senate District 37 will choose a successor to Sen. Dan Newberry -- Republican Brian O'Hara, formerly Congressman Jim Bridenstine's Deputy District Director, faces 26-year-old Allison Ikley-Freeman. Bixby voters have a franchise renewal on the ballot, and Sand Springs has a city bond issue.

SAMPLE BALLOTS:

Last Friday morning, Pat Campbell interviewed me about the City of Tulsa, November 14, 2017, ballot propositions. Click the link to listen to the 30 minute podcast.

Here is a summary of the seven City of Tulsa ballot items, with links to details of the charter language to be changed and my analysis.

  1. Summary nuisance abatement: YES
  2. Electronic notice to councilors of Special Meeting: YES
  3. Sloppily written amendment intended to allow emergency clause on resolutions: NO
  4. City general election to be moved to August: NO
  5. Mayor appoints Election District Commission: NO
  6. Permit political activities by civil service employees and sworn public safety officers: NO
  7. Ineffective attempt to constrain funds generated by public safety tax: NO

As a supplement to my commentary on Prop 4, I have written a timeline of the changes Tulsa has made to its election process. Five changes were made in the six-year period between 2006 and 2012.

For your convenience, here is a single-page summary of my recommendations on the 2017 Tulsa City Charter propositions.

For the sixth time since 2006, we will be tinkering with election dates. Two other proposals would have an impact on elections -- the composition of the Election District Commission and allowing city employees under civil service protection to participate in political activity.

An election resolution for the first five of the proposed amendments was approved by the City Council on July 12, 2017, and approved by Mayor G. T. Bynum IV on July 17, 2017. Resolutions sending the sixth and seventh proposed amendments to the voters were approved on August 16, 2017.

State Rep. Scott McEachin of Tulsa, one of the votes against the HB1054X tax increases, explains in a statement that HB1054X would not have provided needed revenue for another 90 days, but bills already passed by the State House would provide immediate funding from cash on hand -- if the Senate will pass the bills and if Gov. Fallin will sign them.

In 1943, Winston Churchill gave a speech which has come to be known as "A Sense of Crowd and Urgency." Certainly, today, November 9, 2017, we will have both a crowd and a sense of urgency at the Oklahoma Capitol. I'll explain why I think Churchill's remarks are relevant to today, but first let us focus on what is urgent--why we must have a sense of crowd and urgency.

Today, all Oklahomans must focus their attention and their political energy on the fierce urgency of having the Senate pass and the governor sign the measures already passed by the House to fund vital health services now.

I repeat, emphatically, all Oklahomans must focus their attention and their political energy on the fierce urgency of having the Senate pass and the governor sign the measures already passed by the House to fund vital health services now.

Let's look to history, to parliamentary tradition, to Churchill for guidance. First:

'And there should be, on great occasions, a sense of crowd and urgency. There should be a sense of the importance of much that is said; a sense that great matters are being decided, there and then, by the House.'

Eliminating the anxiety - in some cases said to be no less than life-threatening to those who suffer from depression - is the great matter to be decided, here and now.

Now is not the time for analogies about cans and roads; now is the time to act. Revenue derived from the passage of HB1054X will not be available until 90 days after the bill is acted upon by the governor. It will not answer our urgent need.

Again, from Churchill: 'The House of Commons has lifted our affairs above the mechanical sphere into the human sphere. It thrives on criticism, it is perfectly impervious to newspaper abuse or taunts from any quarter.... There is no situation to which it cannot address itself with vigor and ingenuity.'

Therefore, let us conduct our affairs in the Capitol today with vigor and ingenuity, according to the 'Oklahoma standard.' In my opinion, the essential element of the Oklahoma standard is how we express our concern for one another in times of crisis. Historically, Oklahomans are both charitable and frugal, but money extracted by law from Oklahoma's citizens is not charity, and money given carte blanche to government which has admitted to misuse of funds is not frugality. Today is not a day to pass a massive tax increase; today is a day to assure all Oklahomans that its House of Representatives, Senate and governor can see that our most vulnerable are protected.

Muskogee State Rep. George Faught has posted a vigorous defense of his "no" vote on the HB 1054 tax increases. Faught states that the House has already passed bills filling the current budget hole without raising taxes; the Senate can choose to take these bills up and pass them. Faught also questions the wisdom of considering additional spending during the special session; the focus should have been solely on meeting the gap created when the State Supreme Court overturned the cigarette tax increase.

Faught also chides the fearmongers who have caused Oklahoma's most vulnerable citizens to worry unnecessarily. This is a classic move by the tax-consuming elements of society: Hold the most vulnerable hostage until the voters agree to a tax increase. They'll always throw senior citizens out on the street or lay off teachers and police officers, rather than cut fruitless tax credits or pointless agencies.

Notice that the conservatives who voted yesterday are proudly explaining and defending their votes. They are not hiding from what was an unpopular decision. They understand the emotional manipulation being used and the game that the lobbyists and their allies are playing. I admire their courage.

THE TRUTH ABOUT THE CURRENT BUDGET CRISIS

There are differing viewpoints on the answer to fixing our state budget woes, but the issue at hand is protecting and funding our core services. While I take my role as State Representative very seriously, I understand that I will never make everybody happy. I tell my constituents what my beliefs and core principles are when I am asking for their vote. Integrity demands that I am true to my word and every decision made as a legislator means that both the benefits and consequences of each measure presented must be weighed before making a decision. Believe me, there are no easy answers!

It is important to note that even if HB1054 had passed with the required 76 votes, the monies generated would not have been appropriated until March 1st, 2018. The immediate crisis facing DHS (specifically the Advantage Waiver program) would not have been averted by passage of this bill. The good news is that in addition to available Rainy Day funds and recent revenue upturns, there is more than enough in numerous state revolving accounts that can be tapped to appropriate the necessary dollars to keep the core services provided to our citizens.

This Special Session should have dealt solely with the current deficit created when the State Supreme Court overturned the Cigarette "fee", ruling it unconstitutional. Digging the financial hole twice as deep and compounding the problem with added spending in a time when sufficient funds are not there and when our state is slowly but surely emerging from a deep national recession is reckless and irresponsible. Raising taxes at this time actually threatens to stall or possibly even reverse the fragile economic recovery we have started to see. In a two-income family, if one wage earner loses their job, the family doesn't decide to buy a new car and go further in debt - state government shouldn't increase spending until we regain a sure financial footing. Recovery is occurring and we are seeing some very encouraging numbers as our revenues are gradually increasing, but unfortunately, it doesn't happen overnight. Raising taxes should always be a last resort.

Oklahomans solidly rejected a tax increase 12 months ago when they voted down the Education Penny Sales Tax at the polls. They had the opportunity, but rejected a one cent permanent increase in sales tax even though it was targeted to Education. This wasn't because they were not in support of our teachers, but because they felt they were taxed enough already. Had HB1054 passed, it would have been the largest tax increase in Oklahoma history.

Over the last few weeks, it has come to light that several state agencies have been lying to legislature and the people of Oklahoma about the monies they have been allocated. Millions of taxpayer dollars which come from hard-working Oklahoma families and small businesses have been squandered and misused. This is totally unacceptable. We should demand audits and oversight on agencies before they misspend another dime of taxpayer money. Continuing to appropriate funds to these agencies without accountability is a dereliction of our duty.

The House already has passed funding to get DHS and the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services through this current crisis. The Department of Health shortfall will be covered as well. Contrary to what people are hearing from the news, there IS money to address the issue at hand. We can "plug the hole" WITHOUT raising taxes. Agency heads are publicly threatening to make the most dramatic and harmful cuts to create a bigger crisis rather than doing what is necessary to avoid them. Fanning the flames of fear on our most vulnerable citizens in unconscionable and simply "government bullying." An acceptable measure has been passed by the House which fills the budget hole. The Senate and Governor should stop grandstanding and address the issue at hand. Additional spending can be brought up at the appropriate time - during the next regular session.

In order to provide long-awaited pay raises for teachers and state employees, we need to have the funds to sustain those increases year after year. However, missing monies, illegal payments and irregularities in accounting must be addressed before simply passing a higher tax burden on to our citizens. As a side note, these pay raises would not have gone into effect until August of 2018 - another reason to address this issue in the next legislative session.

Oklahoma State Rep. Tom Gann, one of the votes against the proposed tax increase package, analyzes the state budget crisis from his perspective as an auditor.

Oklahoma House of Representatives Communications & Public Affairs Nov. 9, 2017

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Contact: State Rep. Tom Gann
Office: (405) 557-7364

Tone at the Top
By Rep. Tom Gann


When referencing fraud prevention, auditors use the catchphrase tone at the top. It refers to an organization's ethical climate, its integrity - set by its leaders.

To set an effective internal control environment, auditors have to assess an organization's tone at the top. Do leaders show a commitment to honesty, integrity and ethical behavior, or do they pursue winning at all costs? Are they transparent, or do they hide what they are doing behind closed doors?

As a former auditor myself, I find myself now in government assessing the tone at the top as I learn more and more each day of the shell game being played with government money.

A perfect example of what I'm talking about is the state Department of Health. A recent news story says that the agency "employed a series of accounting tricks to provide the illusion of a balanced budget," but has in fact spent more than its annual revenues since 2011.

I'm afraid the health department is only the first indicator of a much deeper problem in our state. If this agency could get away with this for six years, how many other agencies are using similar tactics? We won't know until we begin an audit of each recipient of state appropriations.

First, however, we must examine our tone at the top. If the Legislature itself thumbs its nose at the rules it establishes and enacts legislation that is clearly unconstitutional, why would we expect more from our state agencies?

Laws lose effectiveness when people ignore them.

When the Legislature funds pet projects and protects special interests, why would we expect our agencies to perform differently?

On the other hand, if we set a tone of transparency, and we uphold ethical behavior from the top down, then our agencies would be more inclined to do the same. We as legislators need to be above board and set a tone of integrity. We should be able then to expect the same from our agencies.

We must raise the standard for ourselves as lawmakers first. If we're going to point fingers at our agencies, we need to first look at ourselves.

Once we can stop engineering the crisis, we can manage it.

Tom Gann serves Oklahoma House District 8. He can be reached by phone at (405) 557-7364 or by email at tom.gann@okhouse.gov.

In a Facebook post, Sen. Nathan Dahm has explained his reasons for opposing a massive tax increase to meet the current Oklahoma state budget shortfall.

This week I voted no one of the largest tax increases in state history. Why? Because I don't believe the answer to our state's budget woes is raising taxes.

Where are the reforms?

Every program that is currently being used as a bargaining chip with claims that the program will be eliminated could be fully funded WITHOUT raising taxes if reforms were made.

The majority of the legislature seems willing to raise almost half a billion dollars in taxes on nearly every single Oklahoman without passing any reforms.

Why is it that they will raise taxes on the oil & gas industry which creates tens of thousands of jobs in our state while at the same time cutting checks for tens of millions of dollars to subsidize the wind industry (and their dozens of jobs) every year?

Why is it that the entire state is forced to subsidize the Amtrak between OKC & Dallas? Why can't people pay the full price of a ticket? Why do people in Tulsa or the panhandle or Enid have to pay for others to take a joy ride to go shopping and spend their money (sales-tax free on certain items!) in Texas?

Why is it that the taxpayers had to subsidize over $4,000,000 to line the pockets of sleaze-ball Harvey Weinstein with his movie that made Oklahomans look backwards?

Why is it that we have to pay sales tax on groceries and necessities but not to buy a newspaper or magazine to read the fake news?

Why is it that state agencies can use taxpayer funds to foment raising taxes to take even more money from the taxpayers?

The reason is because those select few have extra influence at the Capitol. If you go after the newspaper carve out, they'll smear you for trying to eliminate freedom of the press (and they'll endorse your future opponent). If you go after the wind credits, they'll fund your opponent (tens of millions of dollars goes a long way in campaign contributions). And on and on it goes.

So what's the result? The state budget is balanced on the backs of average Oklahomans. Because the average joe doesn't have a huge force of lobbyists and government affairs directors canvassing the Capitol on their behalf. All they have is two people who are supposed to be fighting for them: their Representative and their Senator.

Our focus should not be on the next election, but on the next generation. Elected officials must remember the purpose for government as outlined in our Declaration of Independence: "that to secure these RIGHTS, governments are instituted among men, deriving their JUST powers from the consent of the governed."

St. Gregory's University in Shawnee, Oklahoma, will be closing its doors at the end of the semester, officials announced yesterday.

The board made 'the difficult, but necessary,' decision following the denial of a loan application to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, according to the announcement. 'Without this component in the financial plan, the ability to sustain the university at this point is not possible. The Board of Directors continues to work actively to resolve financial difficulties and to explore possible partnerships in order to move forward.'

Nothing on the website or in news accounts explain why a college expected to get a loan from the USDA. The college must have already been in dire financial shape to have its existence beyond December hanging on this one loan. Inside Higher Ed's story links to a Shawnee News-Star article from January which links, without elaboration, the de-annexation of the 520-acre campus from the City of Shawnee, USDA-sponsored refinancing of debt, and assistance from the Citizen Potawatomi Nation.

Originally established as the Catholic University of Oklahoma in 1915, St. Gregory's University, in Shawnee, Oklahoma, St. Gregory's College granted associate's degrees as a junior college until it was accredited in 1997 to offer four-year degrees. The university grew out of the Sacred Heart Mission, founded in 1875. A look at the college's website shows little to distinguish it from other small private colleges -- no core curriculum, the usual assortment of majors, sports, and activities. As a dad in the midst of my second go-round through the college application process, I've seen the piles of brochures from small colleges. Each brochure differs from the next only in the college name, the school colors, and the mascot that appears in a cover photo next to smiling students.

St. Gregory's had recently announced that it would accept the Classic Learning Test, a newly designed standardized college admissions test geared toward classically educated students. St. Gregory's is listed on Wikipedia as one of about three-dozen Ex corde Ecclesiae Catholic universities and colleges, constituted and explicitly governed under Roman Catholic church authority. Many of the other schools on the list are explicit in their aim to be faithful to Catholic doctrine and traditional in their curriculum and teaching methods, like Ave Maria University, Thomas More College of Liberal Arts, and Christendom College. For whatever reason, St. Gregory's leadership didn't effectively communicate its apparent countercultural shift to the conservative Catholics in Oklahoma and the region who might have appreciated it.

The higher-ed bubble is starting to burst, and small, non-selective private colleges with few distinctives may be the first to suffer from the drop in demand. (Similarly situated state colleges won't suffer because taxpayers can always be squeezed for more money.) Small private colleges can't keep up with deeper-pocketed schools in the arms race in student amenities. That arms race and the accompanying ad blitz means that local students, once the core of a small college's student body, will be lured away to bigger cities and bigger schools. To compete for out-of-area students to make up for the loss of commuters, a small college has to offer apartment-style housing, food-court-style dining, and on-campus distractions to compensate for the lack of entertainment options in town.

The only way to survive may be to run the other direction -- offer a strong core curriculum, adopt low-tech teaching methods, and make a virtue out of austerity. I'm thinking here of the New College Franklin, where the church library serves as the classroom for Great Books seminars, students board with parishoners, and community organizations serve in lieu of extracurricular activities. Why shouldn't Oklahoma's Benedictine-run college offer a focused but deep curriculum and intentional Catholic spiritual formation and become the school of choice for Catholic students interested in the Benedict Option?

UPDATE 2017/12/08: Bobby Ross, Jr., writing for Religion News Service / Reuters, provides a much clearer explanation about St. Gregory's USDA loan application and why it was denied:

Here in Oklahoma, St. Gregory's had hoped a $12.5 million rural development loan from the Citizen Potawatomi Nation - made possible thanks to federal money dispersed to the tribe - would keep it alive.

To qualify for the loan, the Sooner State's only Catholic university even de-annexed from Shawnee, a city of 31,000, to meet the requirement of being located in a rural area. However, the U.S. Department of Agriculture denied the loan, saying St. Gregory's wasn't in a rural area at the time of the last U.S. Census.

"Once the loan was denied, we were basically out of cash, and we needed to let our students find new homes quickly," the university president said. "We couldn't delay. There was really no time to appeal the decision of the USDA," [St. Gregory's President Michael A.] Scaperlanda said.

This may be the program involved: Community Facilities Guaranteed Loan Program. The definition of "rural" requires that the place have a population no greater than 20,000; Shawnee had a population of 29,857 at the last census.

So the loan denial was a simple matter of ineligibility, but the question remains: How did finances get so bad so fast that a (pardon me) "Hail Mary" pass -- hoping for approval of a loan from funds that really weren't intended for the purpose of keeping a small-city private college open -- was the only hope of staying in business for the entire academic year? It strikes me as the sort of situation that occurs when someone had been hiding the true state of the college's finances, perhaps to hide his or her own misuse of college funds.

A quick web search turned up a few other small colleges that had benefited from USDA Rural Development programs -- direct grants, direct loans, loan guarantees, or some combination thereof:

Note that all of these loans involve capital improvements. In contrast, St. Gregory's seems to have been hoping for a USDA-guaranteed loan to fund operating expenses.

The seventh of the seven charter change propositions on the City of Tulsa November 14, 2017, ballot would add language to the City Charter with the intent of preventing the money from the public safety tax approved in April 2016 to be spent on any other purpose.

Here are direct links to the current text of Tulsa City Charter, Article II, Section 7.1, City Council, Budgets and Tulsa City Charter, Article III, Section 1.4, Mayor, Executive and administrative powers and duties.

The mark-up below shows the how the text of Article II, Section 7.1, and Article III, Section 1.4, would change if Proposition No. 7 is approved, with added text underlined. No text would be removed by this proposition.

Section 7.1. - Budgets.

Prior to the expenditure of general funds, or funds from the sale or issuance of an obligation of the city, or from any other source, the Mayor shall submit to the Council a budget for the expenditure of such funds or amendments to previously adopted budgets. The Council shall adopt budgets or amendments and make appropriations by ordinance, provided, that no revenue derived from the 2017 Public Safety Sales Tax, as set forth in detail in Title 43‐I Tulsa Revised Ordinances, shall ever be budgeted, spent or used for any purpose other than public safety as described therein.

Section 1.4. - Executive and administrative powers and duties.

The Mayor shall be the chief executive and administrative officer of the city and shall:

...

C. Prepare and submit to the Council annually, on or before the first day of May, an operating budget, a capital program, and a capital budget; submit recommendations for amending adopted budgets, provided, that no revenue derived from the 2017 Public Safety Sales Tax, as set forth in detail in Title 43‐I Tulsa Revised Ordinances, shall ever be budgeted, spent or used for any purpose other than public safety as described therein;

While I appreciate the intention behind this, it should be obvious that the proposal won't accomplish what is desired. Making the meaning of language in the City Charter (which can only change with a vote of the people) depend on the language in an ordinance (which can be changed without a vote of the people) makes it easy to undermine the intent of the charter provision without getting public approval to remove it. The Council could vote to redefine public safety to include, say, park maintenance. While such a change would require following the Brown Ordinance process with public notice and public hearing, that wouldn't stop a determined council and mayor. The charter amendment wouldn't make it any harder to redirect or misdirect this money than it already is.

This proposed amendment also does not prevent the council and mayor from redirecting general fund money currently paying for police and fire protection to other purposes, effectively nullifying the intended benefit of approving the earmarked public safety tax. While Title 43-I declares that intent, there is no mandatory language that prohibits reducing general fund spending on police and fire from historic levels or penalizes elected officials who do so. They wouldn't even have to go through a Brown Ordinance process to adopt a budget that cuts general fund spending on public safety.

Finally, even if this amendment could accomplish its intended purpose, earmarking funds hinders flexibility to prioritize spending when revenue drops. Different "colors of money" -- funds from specific sources that can only be spent on specific agencies -- mean that some agencies are swimming in money while higher priority public purposes go unfunded. This is a significant contributor to our current state budget crisis, but it isn't getting the attention it should. Earmarked revenues set up a classic conflict between concentrated benefit and diffuse cost: An agency (and its employees, contractors, and clients) that benefits from this arrangement will zealously defend its earmark, but the cost (finding revenue elsewhere for other government purposes) is spread over too many agencies and taxpayers to incite sufficient support to overcome agency resistance. Politicians respond to this imbalance of passion by backing off of earmark reform -- less hassle to impose a little tax hike on everyone or cut a small amount from a wide swath of government than to deal with the sound and fury of taking dedicated funding from a specific program.

I'll be voting no on Proposition No. 7.

Yesterday, a proposal intended to increase taxes on beer, cigarettes, and gasoline and to increase the gross production tax on the oil industry to fill Oklahoma's budget gap failed to get the three-quarters majority in the State House required to put the taxes into effect without a vote of the people.

State Rep. Kevin Calvey, one of the 29 representatives who voted against the plan, yesterday called on his fellow legislators to plug the current spending gap in the Oklahoma budget with available cash and resist the urge to raise taxes. Adding revenue, he says, allows bad actors in state government to hide corruption and mismanagement, and he offers some specific recommendation. (Emphasis added below.)

Tax Increases Just Cover Up Corruption

Last spring, Dr. Terry Cline, Governor Fallin's then-Secretary of Health, berated me for refusing to vote for tax increases. Last week, Dr. Cline was forced to resign when apparent fraud and/or mismanagement was uncovered at the Department of Health.

The heads of two other agencies which support tax increases are also under investigation.
Makes one wonder: if we had passed all the tax increases last year, would this corruption have remained hidden? I suspect so. The additional money would have filled accounts emptied by mismanagement.

I suspect we've only seen the tip of the iceberg of exposing corruption in state spending, because state agencies have not been independently audited in years!

State government insiders are lying to those who serve vulnerable Oklahomans, telling them that tax increases are necessary to preserve services, when there is enough available cash to plug the current $214 million gap without any tax increase. These lies cause needless anxiety to the vulnerable, causing them to pressure legislators for tax increases.

Perhaps now we are seeing the real reason for the increasingly desperate attempts by government insiders to raise your taxes. The insiders need tax increases to cover up the corruption.

The insiders have raised taxes by $500 million these last two years. Instead of more tax increases, we should audit state agencies to expose corruption and waste. Even before auditing, we can identify more than enough potential savings to fill the current gap, cover next year's expected shortfall, and raise teacher pay. Here's a sampling:

  • Roll back Big Wind subsidies. Over a billion of your tax dollars have subsidized corporate welfare for huge wind companies, often foreign-owned, which provide almost no jobs. (By contrast, the oil and gas industry employs over 150,000 and pays 25% of all Oklahoma taxes).
  • Trim university administration costs. Oklahoma's universities have administrative costs 70% higher than the national average. Reducing administration to the national average saves $374 million annually.
  • Shift more education dollars to teachers. Who got the money from House Bill 1017 and the lottery that "saved" education? Administrators and other non-teacher costs. Rolling back this noninstructional staffing surge saves $373 million annually, to raise teacher pay by $8000.
  • Increase low-income scholarships. A recent OCU study shows every $1 spent on the Opportunity Scholarship Tax Credit leverages private donations to save $1.24 for the state budget, and produces $2.58 for education. Increasing the cap on this credit saves taxpayers millions and helps low-income children.
  • Reserve TSET funds for Medicaid. The Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust (TSET) spends money on ads for smoke-free strip clubs and drag shows, among other waste. Reserving TSET for Medicaid saves at least $85 million annually.
  • Criminal justice reform. I'm tough on crime- I prosecuted terrorists for the Army in Iraq. Let's be tough on crime in a cost-efficient way. Too many Oklahomans are jailed for what amounts to debt collection, often for minor offenses.

If we raise taxes now, we will never expose the corruption or cure the state's spending addiction.

MORE: State Rep. Tess Teague, another vote against yesterday's tax bill, but who voted for an increase in the gross production tax last week, explained her vote in a press release:

I voted against it because this was not the right way to fix the problem. Because I knocked doors for a year and half and I know that House District 101 does not want more taxation. Because I believe in standing firm in my principles and 65% of this district sent me to the Capitol because they believed I would do just that....

Many people think that this was our last option and that since this failed, several critical services and programs will end. Let me be clear, that is not true. Please do not fall prey to fear-mongering. There are other options and we will get them passed.

​Last week the House passed a series of bills that would use cash on hand to fund DHS, Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services and the Oklahoma Health Care Authority fully until April, giving us more time to work and preventing any cuts. The Senate has refused to hear those bills and instead sent us an unconstitutional, log-rolled bill in the form of a $500 million tax increase package. Does that make sense? Right now we're dealing with state agencies who have committed fraud and mismanagement with tax payer dollars, yet instead of conducting the necessary audits and finding efficiencies in government....we're going to our citizens with our hands out saying "Give us more!!" before addressing those issues. I refuse to punish the citizens of this state by making them pay for a problem they did not create.

The sixth of the seven charter change propositions on the City of Tulsa November 14, 2017, ballot would change the rules regarding the political involvement of city employees protected under civil service and sworn public safety employees. A yes vote on Proposition No. 6 would allow civil service city employees and firefighters to attend and speak at the public meetings of the City Council and any other municipal board and commission. They would also be allowed to campaign while off-duty and out of uniform.

Here are direct links to the current text of Tulsa City Charter, Article X, Section 10.1, Civil Service Commission and Merit System, Political Activities Prohibited and Tulsa City Charter, Article XI, Section 5.1, Fire Department, Political Activities Prohibited.

The mark-up below shows the how the text of Article X, Section 10.1, and Article XI, Section 5.1, would change if Proposition No. 6 is approved, with added text underlined, and deleted text stricken.

ARTICLE X. CIVIL SERVICE COMMISSION AND MERIT SYSTEM.

Section 10.1. ‐ Political Activities Prohibited Permitted.

No person in the classified service shall take an active part in any campaign for the election of officers of the city, except to vote and privately state a personal opinion.

Municipal employees in the classified service may attend and express their views at city council meetings, or any other public meetings of municipal entities. Any municipal employee in the classified service may actively participate in partisan and nonpartisan political activities. Provided, the political activity in which the employee participates shall be exercised only during off‐duty hours and while not in uniform. Any federal statutes restricting the political activities of certain municipal employees shall supersede the provisions of this section as to such employees.

ARTICLE XI. FIRE DEPARTMENT

Section 5.1. ‐ Political Activities Prohibited Permitted.

No chief, officer, or sworn member of the Fire Department shall take an active part in any campaign for the election of officers of the city, except to vote and privately state a personal opinion.

Any chief, officer, or sworn members of the Fire Department may attend and express their views at city council meetings, or any other public meetings of municipal entities. Any chief, officer, or sworn member of the Fire Department may actively participate in partisan and nonpartisan political activities. Provided, the political activity in which the employee participates shall be exercised only during off‐duty hours and while not in uniform. Any federal statutes restricting the political activities of certain municipal employees shall supersede the provisions of this section as to such employees.

Prohibitions against soliciting campaign contributions would not be affected.

I can appreciate the proposition that city workers should be able to speak at public meetings, whether it is a situation unrelated to their job (a zoning case in their neighborhood) or an issue where their job knowledge could shed some valuable light.

The civil service bargain is this: The election result won't cost you your government job, but in exchange for that security, you agree not to act publicly to try to influence that result. This is the opposite of old spoils system, where public employees would campaign for incumbents in hopes of keeping their jobs and citizens would campaign for challengers in hopes of getting city jobs.

Even Franklin Roosevelt, that friend of organized labor and expander of government, opposed collective bargaining and strikes by public employee unions, seeing the hazard these practices would pose to the public interest. An unsavory alliance between public-employee unions and state and local elected officials have created political machines reminiscent of the old spoils system, and these political machines have driven local governments into default, unable to keep the promises that were used to buy the votes and volunteering of public-employee unions.

The current ban acts as a protection. A city employee whose political views might differ from the majority of his union can avoid having that dissent exposed in a way that could sour his relationships with union stewards, co-workers, and supervisors. When asked to campaign for a candidate or cause, he has a ready excuse to keep his views to himself. The proposed modification would strip that excuse away.

A more narrowly drafted modification allowing employees to speak on city issues would be worth considering, but a wholesale change to allow employees to campaign for or against the people who will decide their raises is a dangerous step in the direction of bankrupt cities across America. I'm voting no on Proposition No. 6.

MORE: A recent article in National Affairs details the rise of public-employee unions and the unique dangers posed by their participation in politics.

A 2012 Reuters story explains how San Bernardino, California, went from middle-class city to bankrupt basket case:

Yet on close examination, the city's decades-long journey from prosperous, middle-class community to bankrupt, crime-ridden, foreclosure-blighted basket case is straightforward -- and alarmingly similar to the path traveled by many municipalities around America's largest state. San Bernardino succumbed to a vicious circle of self-interests among city workers, local politicians and state pension overseers.

Little by little, over many years, the salaries and retirement benefits of San Bernardino's city workers -- and especially its police and firemen -- grew richer and richer, even as the city lost its major employers and gradually got poorer and poorer.

Unions poured money into city council elections, and the city council poured money into union pay and pensions. The California Public Employees' Retirement System (Calpers), which manages pension plans for San Bernardino and many other cities, encouraged ever-sweeter benefits. Investment bankers sold clever bond deals to pay for them. Meanwhile, state law made it impossible to raise local property taxes and difficult to boost any other kind.

No single deal or decision involving benefits and wages over the years killed the city. But cumulatively, they built a pension-fueled financial time-bomb that finally exploded.

MORE: City Finance Director Mike Kier writes, in his personal capacity, concerned that city employees who want to remain on the political sidelines lose their cover if Prop 6 is approved.

I am concerned that employee participation in political campaigns will undermine the existing merit system, which replaced a patronage system in the 1950s. Will employment decisions be based on merit, or will they be based on the employee's political activity? When political activities are allowed, they can be expected; and when expected they can be required. Employment decisions at all levels could be challenged as retaliation or reward for political activities. How will department heads and managers adjust to the political activities by employees or to expectations for their own activity? How will City Council staff members adjust from prohibited to allowed political activity, a change which most of the Council supports?

The fifth of the seven charter change propositions on the City of Tulsa November 14, 2017, ballot would change the makeup and responsibilities of the Election District Commission, which redraws the City Council district lines after each Federal decennial census. A yes vote on Proposition No. 5 would expand the size of the commission from three members to five, make all of them mayoral appointees, subject to council confirmation, and add contractors and city employees to the category of those ineligible to serve. The five-member commission would include two registered Republicans, two registered Democrats, and one registered independent. The commission's meetings would be subject to the state Open Meetings Act. A sentence added to Article VI, Section 10.2 would direct the commission to follow some specific criteria regarding boundaries, partisan composition, and racial and ethnic demographics.

Here is a direct link to the current text of Tulsa City Charter, Article VI, Section 10.1.

The mark-up below shows the how the text of Article VI, Sections 10.1 and 10.2 would change if Proposition No. 5 is approved, with added text underlined, and deleted text stricken.

SECTION 10.1. - ELECTION DISTRICT COMMISSION.

There is hereby created an Election District Commission which shall consist of five (5) three (3) members. The governing body of the two (2) political parties having the largest number of registered voters within the city as of the date of the preceding general election shall each appoint one (1) member of the Election District Commission. The Mayor shall appoint one (1) member, to be appointed by the Mayor subject to confirmation by a majority vote of the entire membership of the Council. Of the five (5) said members, two (2) shall be affitliated with the political party having the largest number of registered voters within the city as of the date of the preceding general election, two (2) shall be affiliated with the political party having the second largest number of such voters, and one (l) shall be an independent voter. Said members shall not have changed their political party affiliation within the last year. All members shall be registered voters and residents of the City of Tulsa. No two (2) of the members shall be residents of the same Council district at the time of their appointment. The appointments shall be made and the Election District Commission shall be organized no later than the 31st day of January, 1991, and no later than the 31st day of January 1st day of July, 2021, and no later than the 1st day of July of each tenth year thereafter. In the event the members of the Election District Commission are not appointed within the times herein provided, such appointments shall be made by the Presiding Judge of the District Court of Tulsa County. Persons holding an elected office shall be ineligible for appointment to the Election District Commission. No City of Tulsa employee, contractor or elected official shall be appointed to serve on the Election District Commission. If a vacancy shall occur in the Election District Commission, a qualified successor shall be appointed within twenty (20) days after the date the vacancy occurs as provided for original appointments.

SECTION 10.2. - ADJUSTMENT OF ELECTION DISTRICT BOUNDARIES.

The Election District Commission shall adjust the boundaries of Election Districts each ten (10) years after the completion of the Federal Decennial Census. The Election District Commission shall determine the population of the city and each existing election district according to the preceding Federal Decennial Census and shall prepare a proposed Election District Plan. The Election District Commission shall consider natural and neighborhood boundaries, shall disregard partisan considerations, and shall avoid diluting minority votes. Each district shall consist of contiguous, compact territory and be as nearly equal in population as possible. The district boundary lines shall conform with precinct boundary lines. The Election District Plan shall establish the population and boundaries of each election district. The proposed Election District Plan shall include a map and description of the districts. The Election District Commission shall hold at least one (1) public hearing on the proposed Election District Plan. Notice of the hearing shall be published in a newspaper of general circulation in the city at least ten (10) days prior to the date of the hearing. All meetings of the Election District Commission shall be open meetings as regulated by the Oklahoma Open Meeting Act, Title 25, Oklahoma Statutes, Section 301 and following.

If you scroll back through council minutes, you'll find alternative, rejected versions that would have allowed the City Auditor to serve or to nominate a member and that would have required members to reside in different quadrants of the city. Instead, the City Council chose a version that allows the mayor to pick all the members.

I will be voting no on Proposition No. 5. Long-time readers will know that fair redistricting has been a passion of mine for decades. In fact, it was the subject of my first published essay, in May 1991, back when condemnation of gerrymandering wasn't fashionable because Democrats were creating the gerrymanders.

The principle of separation of powers, with separate, co-equal institutions responsible for executive and legislative responsibilities, is a safeguard against corruption and tyranny. Giving the mayor the ability to pick all the members of the commission redrawing district lines gives him too much power over the body that is charged with scrutinizing his performance and keeping him in check.

By that measure, the existing system is already broken. In 2011, Mayor Dewey Bartlett Jr not only had his own appointee to the commission under the charter, but a Bartlett Jr partisan was appointed by the GOP county chairman, giving Bartlett Jr and his Cockroach Caucus allies the ability to severely damage the reelection chances of the councilors he had alienated. Councilor John Eagleton, Bartlett Jr's most eloquent critic, was drawn out of his own District 7. Districts 3, 4, and 5 were redrawn to encompass a large number of new voters who would not have a relationship with the incumbent councilors, but would instead have their opinions formed by big-money campaigns painting them as bickering naysayers.

The new proposal doesn't fix the problem, but instead makes it worse. The council would have to confirm the mayor's appointments to the board under Proposition 5, but it is easy to imagine scenarios where a mayor would join with enough cronies on the council to form a majority. This cabal could fill the Election District Commission with minions who would redraw the lines to create safe seats for the mayor's friends and undermine any councilor who offered skepticism or resistance.

The redistricting problem is already well-constrained by the charter and amenable to an automated or semi-automated solution: You have about 180 precincts, and you have to distribute them into 9 contiguous groups of precincts with similar population. Define a few "core areas" encompassing communities of interest which ought to be included in a single district -- e.g., west of the river, the Money Belt, far north Tulsa -- then start the process by adding single precincts to each of these cores until the population is close to the ideal. Another approach would be to start with existing districts and make the minimal number of reassignments to make the numbers work.

If you must include people in the process, there are ways to create a commission that isn't compromised by self-interest. In 1991, I suggested using unsuccessful candidates to draw a rival redistricting plan; the voters would then decide between that plan and the legislature's plan. Constrained sortition is another approach: Let interested citizens apply to serve, lightly screen them with a test of geographical and numerical comprehension, and then draw nine names out of a hat to form the commission.

Like the election calendar, the redistricting process deserves careful and thorough examination and public debate, not a quick patch that seems

To adapt something I wrote in 2011 in advance of the first Republican-majority redistricting process at the State Capitol: Taking a fair approach to redistricting means preserving the right of voters to fire their representatives. It's a matter of accountability and fairness to the voters; fairness to the minority faction is merely a side effect. Lines ought to be drawn with regard to communities of interest, without regard to incumbent political interest.

The fourth of the seven charter change propositions on the City of Tulsa November 14, 2017, ballot would once again scramble our city election process. A yes vote on Proposition No. 4 would modify three separate sections of Article VI (Election and Qualification of Officers), with the effect that the three-stage system we currently have would be reduced to two stages, the June primary would be eliminated, the general election would be moved from November to August (the same date as the state runoff election), and what is now described as the general election in November would be called a runoff.

The mark-up below shows the how the text would change if Proposition No. 4 is approved, with added text underlined, and deleted text stricken.

SECTION 1.3. - GENERAL ELECTIONS.

In November in the year 2011, and in November In August in the year 2018, and in August each year thereafter in which an elected officer's term expires, a general election shall be held on the day specified by the laws of Oklahoma for the election of those officers whose terms expire.

SECTION 2.2. - ELECTION PROCEDURE.

In the calendar year of the adoption of this amendment of the Charter2018, and in each year thereafter in which an elected officer's term expires, a primarygeneral election shall be held in August on the day specified by the laws of Oklahoma, at which time the qualified electors of the city shall nominate candidates forfill the officeoffices of those whose terms expire. Only qualified electors residing in an election district may vote in the primary election for candidates for the office of Councilor for such election district. All qualified electors residing in the city may vote in the primary election for candidates for a city-wide office such as Mayor or City Auditor. If a candidate for office is unopposed at the primary election or becomes unopposed by death, disqualification or withdrawal, such candidate shall be deemed elected. If a candidate for an office receives more than fifty percent (50%) of all votes cast for that office at the primary election, such candidate shall be deemed elected. If only two (2) candidates file for an office, there shall be no primary election, and the names of the two (2) candidates shall be placed on the ballot at the general election. If more than two (2) candidates file for an office and no candidate receives more than fifty percent (50%) of all votes cast at the primary election for that office, the two (2) names of the several candidates for eachthe office receiving the greatest number of votes totaling fifty percent (50%) at such primary elections shall be deemed nominated and placed on the ballot at the generala run-off election, unless the number of votes for such two (2) candidates does not exceed fifty percent (50%) of all votes cast for that office; in that event the several candidates in November, on the day specified by the laws of Oklahoma, and the candidate receiving the greatest number of votes and for whom the votes cast at the primary election total at least fifty percent (50%) of all votes cast for that office shall participate in a run-off primary election in which the two (2) candidates for each office receiving the greatest number of votes at suchsaid run-off primary election shall be deemed nominated and placed onelected. In the ballot atevent of a tied vote among the generalsaid candidates, the election shall be decided by lot.

SECTION 3.4. - TIME OF FILING.

Beginning in the calendar year of the adoption of this amendment of the Charter 2018, Declarations of Candidacy shall be filed with the Secretary of the appropriate Election Board no earlier than 8:00 o'clock a.m. on the second Monday in April June and no later than 5:00 o'clock p.m. on the next succeeding Wednesday of any year in which an elected officer's term expires.

Here is a link to the current text of Tulsa City Charter Article VI.

The ballot title reads:

Shall the City Charter of the City of Tulsa, Article VI, 'Election and Qualification of Officers', be amended to hold elections for City offices in August of an election year, require candidates for City offices to file their candidacy in June, and provide for run-off elections, whenever necessary, in November?

Five times between 2006 and 2012 the City of Tulsa made significant changes to the election process: changed the election calendar, lengthened then shortened terms of office, converted elections from partisan to non-partisan. 2016 was the first mayoral election to be held reflecting all of those changes. This latest proposed change would be the sixth modification in 11 years. This instability reflects a failure by voters and councilors to think carefully about the electoral process as a complex system. The election process is too important to be subjected to ill-considered, whimsical alterations.

I've written what turned out to be a lengthy history of all the changes to Tulsa's city election process since the council-mayor form of government was adopted in 1989. Because it was so long, I've broken it out as a separate entry.

The proposed amendment on next Tuesday's ballot is intended to fix the long lame-duck problem that surfaced after the 2016 election, when challenger Tweedledee IV earned more than 50% of the vote against incumbent Mayor Tweedledum Jr in the June primary. The new mayor-elect had to wait five months before taking office. (I've seen worse: Rogers County Treasurer Jason Carini had to wait an entire year between defeating incumbent Cathy Pinkerton Smith in the June 2014 primary and taking office at the beginning of July 2015.)

The proposed fix will create other problems. The new proposal would have a general election in August on the same date as the state partisan runoff election and a top-two runoff, if no one wins a majority, in November. If a party primary for governor, senator, or congressman has no clear winner (very likely in 2018 with a half-dozen candidates already seeking to replace Mary Fallin), August could be a high-turnout election, with lopsided turnout for one party (Republican, most likely) having a lopsided effect on non-partisan city elections.

There are other methods to fix the problem exposed by the 2016 mayor's race. The process for electing non-partisan at-large district judge in our Judicial District has a primary if there are more than two candidates, and the top two candidates in the primary face each other on the November general election ballot, even if one of the candidates received a majority of the vote in the June primary (26 O. S. 11-112). This is because eight of our district judge positions are nominated by Tulsa County voters, one is nominated by Pawnee County voters, but both Tulsa and Pawnee Counties voters decide the winner in November.

Nevertheless the top-two-regardless process could be justified even if the universe of potential primary voters and the universe of potential general voters were coextensive. Voting history statistics suggest that large numbers of eligible voters sit out the primary and let the primary voters winnow the choices to a number they can get their minds around. I wonder how many City of Tulsa voters sat out last June's primary thinking they'd get to vote for the top two candidates in November. With those expectations at work, you could justify borrowing the judicial election rules so that the June vote only narrows the field and never picks the winner.

But the pros and cons of the proposal on the ballot, the proposal outlined above, the previous short-lived systems ought to be discussed and compared side-by-side before we approve any further changes to our election system. We need to have a thorough city-wide discussion about the kind of system we want. Do we want to separate city elections from federal elections, so that there can be more focus on city issues? Should we require charter amendments, bond issues, and tax increases to be considered only on general election ballots? Do we want a first-past-the-post system, simple and quick, but apt to give us officials without a majority mandate; a multi-tiered runoff system, which takes time, but allows voters to focus on smaller numbers of candidates in later stages; or instant runoff voting, quick, but requires voters to consider and rank all the candidates at the same time?

Until we have a commission on city elections to debate and evaluate the possibilities before making recommendations, I will be voting no on every piecemeal modification to the City of Tulsa election process.

ONE MORE THING: Prop. 4 would effectively convert Tulsa's election system into a Louisiana-style jungle primary. In a 2006 UTW column, I explained that a top-two single-runoff voting system can produce results like the 1991 Louisiana gubernatorial primary, in which the two candidates that advanced to the runoff -- Edwin Edwards aka "the Crook" and David Duke aka "the Klansman" -- were widely despised by the population. Incumbent Gov. Buddy Roemer finished a very close third. Any one of several small contingencies could have produced a different result with a governor acceptable to a majority of the public.

In the spotlight

Specific language and detailed analysis of the seven proposed amendments to the Tulsa City Charter, plus a bonus: a timeline of the history of changes to Tulsa's municipal election process.

Appreciate the hours of effort behind analysis you can't find anywhere else? Hit the tip jar!

Many thanks to these readers for financially supporting the BatesLine voter guide for the 2016 general election!

Tom Rorschach
Charlie Brown
Ron Moser
Barbara Pinney
DeMont McNeil
okie_spader
Keenan Cicle
Cindy Coonce
Judith McMillen
Linda Gorman
Clark Bickers
Brian Young
Doug Lightfoot
James McDonald
Ethan Brown
Neil Kingsley
George Butler
Alan Black
and several anonymous contributors

An ad or PayPal contribution helps fund the costs of running BatesLine. Click here to learn how you can help.

Contact

BatesLine Linkblog

Latest links of interest:

Bermuda abolishes same-sex marriage | CatholicHerald.co.uk

'The British Overseas Territory of Bermuda is to become the world's first territory to restore the traditional definition of marriage just six months after the island's Supreme Court ruled in favour of same-sex unions.

'MPs in the House of Assembly passed the Domestic Partnership Act on Friday, which states that marriage is only between a man and a woman. However, it also creates raft of legal rights for same-sex couples under the title of "domestic partnerships", and does not invalidate same-sex marriages that have already taken place since the court ruling....

'Voters overwhelmingly rejected same-sex marriage in a referendum last year. However, a judge later ruled that the island's Registrar General could not reject a same-sex couple's application to marry. He said that the traditional definition of marriage was "inconsistent with the provisions of the Human Rights Act as they constitute deliberate different treatment on the basis of sexual orientation".

'Opposition MPs denounced the bill as "regressive", but Lawrence Scott, a member of the ruling Progressive Labour Party, said the new legislation gave "the LGBTQ community the benefits it has been asking for", while keeping the "traditional definition of marriage".

'"As it stands now, they can have the name marriage but without the benefits. But after this bill passes, they have the benefits and just not the name marriage. The benefits are what they really want."'

Note however that Australia provided the benefits almost a decade ago, but activists there continued to push until they succeeded in redefining the term marriage. The goal is not personal liberty but state-enforced approval. Still, congratulations to Bermudans for overriding an overreaching judiciary.

Sean Parker unloads on Facebook "exploiting" human weakness

Sean Parker, founding president of Facebook, told Axios that he's become "something of a conscientious objector" on social media:

"When Facebook was getting going, I had these people who would come up to me and they would say, 'I'm not on social media.' And I would say, 'OK. You know, you will be.' And then they would say, 'No, no, no. I value my real-life interactions. I value the moment. I value presence. I value intimacy.' And I would say, ... 'We'll get you eventually.'...

"I don't know if I really understood the consequences of what I was saying, because [of] the unintended consequences of a network when it grows to a billion or 2 billion people and ... it literally changes your relationship with society, with each other ... It probably interferes with productivity in weird ways. God only knows what it's doing to our children's brains....

"The thought process that went into building these applications, Facebook being the first of them, ... was all about: 'How do we consume as much of your time and conscious attention as possible?'

"And that means that we need to sort of give you a little dopamine hit every once in a while, because someone liked or commented on a photo or a post or whatever. And that's going to get you to contribute more content, and that's going to get you ... more likes and comments....

"It's a social-validation feedback loop ... exactly the kind of thing that a hacker like myself would come up with, because you're exploiting a vulnerability in human psychology....

"The inventors, creators -- it's me, it's Mark [Zuckerberg], it's Kevin Systrom on Instagram, it's all of these people -- understood this consciously. And we did it anyway."

Roy Moore's Core Supporters In Alabama Don't Care What You Think - The Federalist

"Politics, especially the increasingly pervasive politics of all-out culture war, is for these voters a straightforward extension of their religious convictions. The mainstream media paints these people as without principles--or worse, as hypocrites, given their support of Moore in the face of his alleged sexual misdeeds. But the opposite is true. They take their principles so seriously that they're willing to make hard choices with their eyes wide open. In this case, they will not vote for Doug Jones because Jones supports abortion--no matter what Moore did....

"The professional class that's supposed to understand American voters never bothered to ask why Trump's message might resonate with tens of millions of people, in part because they never bothered to ask those people what they cared about or treat their concerns as legitimate. For the most part, the mainstream media and Washington elites would rather pretend these people don't exist, or dismiss them as backwater rubes and racists.

"There is of course a kind of sanctimony in this indifference and condescension. Jim Lester was right: Moore is indeed an embarrassment to people like McConnell and certain prominent conservative columnists who think the people of Alabama should be less concerned with abortion and gay marriage. Just like they should've been less concerned last year with immigration and free trade. Don't these people know what's good for them?"

Former Facebook executive Chamath Palihapitiya: "You don't realize it, but you are being programmed" -- Quartz

'Former Facebook vice president of user growth Chamath Palihapitiya said that social media is "eroding the core foundations of how people behave" and that he feels "tremendous guilt" about creating tools that are "ripping apart the social fabric."...

'"You don't realize it, but you are being programmed ... but now you got to decide how much you're willing to give up, how much of your intellectual independence," he warned the audience. He said he didn't want to be programmed himself, emphasizing he "doesn't use this sh**" and his kids are not allowed to use "this sh**" either--also recommending that everyone take a "hard break" from social media....

'"The things that you rely on, the short-term dopamine-driven feedback loops that we have created, are destroying how society works: no civil discourse, no cooperation, misinformation, mistruth," he said....

'"We curate our lives around this perceived sense of perfection because we get rewarded in these short-term signals--hearts, likes, thumbs up--and we conflate that with value, and we conflate it with truth. And instead what it really is is fake, brittle popularity that's short-term and that leaves you even more--admit it--vacant and empty before you did it, because then it forces you into this vicious cycle where you're like 'What's the next thing I need to do now because I need it back?'"'

ACLU Threatens to Stamp Out Diversity by Shuttering Faith-Based Adoption Agencies

"Specifically, the American Civil Liberties Union is suing the state of Michigan over a 2015 law that allows religious adoption agencies to decline placing children with same-sex parents, in accordance with their religious convictions.

"If the ACLU prevails in court, it would overturn the Michigan law and force numerous faith-based adoption agencies to choose between following their beliefs about marriage and family, or going out of business, leaving thousands of foster children out in the cold without families.

"Despite the ACLU's attacks, Michigan's law is neither unconventional nor unprecedented. It simply preserves the status quo in which religious adoption agencies and foster families can serve children on equal terms with secular adoption agencies and foster families."

Alice's Oxford | Peter Hitchens | First Things

Peter Hitchens writes (beautifully)of the Oxford of the past, the Oxford of the imagination, and the Oxford of today.

"So as I walk along the riverside pathways, or slip into the college gardens at dusk, as autumn turns to winter, I am seldom free of the fictional Oxford, or of the small part of its immense, intricate past that I myself have seen. Here I watched England change from being one sort of country to another. That parking lot was a cattle market, fragrant with the smell of damp livestock, herded by suspicious, terse men in brown tweeds, with boiled red faces, for whom the market pubs stayed open all the day. That apartment block was a brewery, whose yeasty stink perfumed the whole city every Wednesday, as that week's mild and bitter, brown and pale ales were made by the methods of the middle ages. That tourist café was a used bookshop, room after room of tottering piles of aged volumes, its uneven staircase climbing upwards almost to the rafters, classics read, sold, reread, and resold over decades by forgotten students. That university building was a grammar school where girls from housing project estates were introduced to Shakespeare and the sciences. Now only money can buy you that, and the children of the poor know nothing of these things. That pretentious hotel was a prison, where men had been hanged for murder and buried in the precincts, within living memory. Now we have none of that sort of thing, but we have more murder, and if our trauma surgeons were not as brilliant as they are, we would have even more of it, for the knife is now a horribly common weapon.  And these colleges, now so modern, gender-fluid, multicultural and progressive, were stern all-male institutions, whose doors were barred at night against the opposite sex and whose walls were savagely spiked to stop adventurers climbing in (and out) on feline expeditions."

Musician Cindy Cashdollar injured in Marbletown accident

Wishing the immensely talented Ms. Cashdollar, formerly with the western swing band Asleep at the Wheel, a speedy (west) recovery.

"Grammy Award-winning musician Cindy Cashdollar was injured Thursday when she fell asleep at the wheel on U.S. Route 209 and crashed into a tree, according to the Ulster County Sheriff's Office....

"Cashdollar suffered numerous cuts and complained of head and neck pain and was taken to the HealthAlliance Hospital's Broadway Campus in Kingston by Marbletown Rescue, the Sheriff's Office said."

Against Princeton | R. R. Reno | First Things

R. R. Reno writes:

"Not only have Princeton, Harvard, Yale, and other elite universities become decadent, they have failed in their self-appointed task. The leaders they proffer our society are increasingly incapable of leading. Our academic leaders oversee a campus culture often riven by conflict. These schools have become hotbeds for identity politics, and administrators kowtow to student extremists. Meanwhile, graduates too often condescend to ordinary citizens, thinking them ignorant bigots or 'takers.'...

"The culture of our time is not overseen by old-fashioned Methodist matrons in the Midwest, nor do today's opinion-leaders emerge from ag schools. Charles Blow is the only regular columnist for the New York Times under sixty years old who did not go to an elite university. For the last half-century, graduates from places like Princeton have been in charge. They are making a wreck of things--not for themselves, of course, but for the rest of society.


"Over the same period of time, these institutions have become fully owned subsidiaries of the Democratic Party. This hyper-partisanship has contributed to the polarization of our politics. Instead of engaging the range of political and moral thinking that has shaped and continues to shape public life, our talented future leaders are fed a party line. Young people are not trained at these schools to be judicious, generous partisans in our political battles. The ideological homogeneity makes liberal students smug and insular--and conservative students radical and combative. There's no denying a simple fact: Elite universities, subsidized by gigantic endowments, have failed as civic institutions."

Christianity Is Just A Better Religion Than I | The Daily Caller

Allan Fimister writes: "This is the West's problem: in itself Christendom, armed with truth and right and freedom, has more than enough resources to resist and overcome any rival civilization. But the 'renaissance' injected into western man an absurd inferiority complex in regard to pagan antiquity and then the 'Enlightenment' insisted on eliminating from public policy and public law the very Christian revelation which defined and ennobled western man. The 'Enlightenment' is a parasite, it will not survive the death of its host. But it is strong enough to weaken the West to the point where its traditional external enemy the Islamic Ummah can strike the killer blow. Deep down the liberals know this is case, as they contracept and abort and legislate our civilisation into extinction, but in the end they don't care. Their ultimate motive was always less the love of 'liberty' and more the hatred of Christ."

Self-driving shuttle crashes in Las Vegas hours after launch | Fox News

Human driver of a semi is being blamed for bumping into a self-driving shuttle that drew too close to the back of the truck and failed to allow it room to back up. The reaction of the authorities suggests that human drivers will be expected to make accommodation for the limitations of automated vehicles and be blamed for accidents that are due to those limitations. This is the slippery slope: Allowing autonomous vehicles on the road creates a safety justification for banning vehicles with human drivers. At that point, the automobile will cease to be a tool of personal autonomy, taking you and your stuff where you want to go, and will become a limited-purpose utility, moving you only to those places where the Powers That Be allow you to go. The only defense against that outcome is to ban autonomous vehicles from public thoroughfares.


BatesLine Linkblog archives

Archives

Feeds

Subscribe to feed Subscribe to this blog's feed:
Atom
RSS
[What is this?]